Hospital receives $500,000 RSF grant

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In what should become the first of many significant grants awarded in the community in the coming years by the Robert Sonsteng Foundation, Swift County-Benson Health Services will be receiving $500,000.

The grant, which will be given out in $50,000 increments over the next 10 years, was announced at the hospital’s governing board meeting Monday night. The grant funds will go toward the hospital’s assisted living and memory care facility with construction on the facility likely starting this summer.

Robert Sonsteng was a bachelor farmer who lived on a farm just over the Swift County line north of Benson in Pope County. He attended Benson Public Schools, and after serving in the military, returned home to farm with his brother and parents. After his parents passed away, Murien and Robert Sonsteng continued to live in the family home, neither ever having married. Upon Murien’s death, Robert Sonsteng lived on his own on the family homestead.

The Sonsteng family was frugal, though the brothers expanded the family farm with purchases of land over the years. When Robert Sonsteng died Sept. 21, 2014, he left an estate valued at nearly $10 million. It is estimated that $5 million to $6 million of that value is in about 1,000 acres of farmland with another $4 million in cash assets.

As he neared the end of his life, Sonsteng looked for direction from Benson attorney Don Wilcox on how the wealth his family had accumulated over two generations could be used to help the area community.

Wilcox told him how the Benson Area Community Foundation (BACF) and the Galen Hanson Foundation worked to benefit the extended Benson area through small grants. Sonsteng liked the idea of what the foundations were doing and how they were set up.

When the estate was finally settled in late 2015, $3 million in cash was used to establish the Robert Sonsteng Foundation. Another $1 million was given to the Southwest Minnesota Initiative Fund with annual investment earnings coming back to the community. The board of the Robert Sonsteng Foundation will direct where those funds are awarded....


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